The Armed Forces of Malta rescued 38 people in distress from Maltese waters on Friday evening, after being spotted towing a migrant vessel earlier in the day. 

A spokesperson from the Home Affairs Ministry confirmed that the group of 38 had been picked up by AFM.

Initial indications suggested that most of the people on board are Moroccan. 

"Morocco is considered to be a secure country and the number of Moroccan people who successfully gain asylum in Europe are very low," the spokesperson said. 

"The authorities are trying to process their asylum claims as quickly as possible, so those who are found to not qualify for asylum can start the process of being sent back to their country of origin."

Plans to quickly process the asylum applications are in line with a new migration pact proposed by the European Commission to share responsibility for migrants across member states. 

The pact seeks to accelerate the repatriation of failed asylum seekers by setting a 12-week time limit to process applications of asylum seekers coming from countries with an acceptance rate lower than 20 per cent. 

Migrant emergency hotline NGO Alarm Phone first received an SOS from the group on Thursday evening and the group in distress was being monitored closely by the Maltese flagged merchant vessel Ambra

According to Alarm Phone, Ambra crew members reported back that an AFM patrol boat had approached the vessel and attempted to repair its engine unsuccessfully.

Alarm Phone said that following that attempt, the patrol boat was seen towing the migrant vessel northward. 

An AFM spokesperson had claimed to have no information about the incident when contacted by Times of Malta on Friday evening. 

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